31 Jan 2010

Logging Software

Way back when, my first electronic logging program was LOG_EQF, I liked it's easy one key entry, and in those days I had it hooked into the "Packet" cluster as well - these days I have a couple of favourite "Logging" programs - after exhaustive "Testing" on both Linux and Win I have a personal preference for CQRLOG on Linux - and WINLOG32. Logging programs are something you need to try for a period of time, and you need to stick with it for quite a while before you eventually get a feel for the way in which programs work - I'm not exactly sure what it is that defines one as being better or worse than another, but you need to test the various functions they offer, and they're ALL different. I stumbled on HRD in 2005 and I was impressed by what it offered and at that time I'd just got my old Laptop off ebay , I started using it and was impressed by the layout, and especially the "Auto - log" feature of the new psk mode and I did use it for quite a while, but recent updates to this otherwise excellent program has slowed up the L/top considerably - like everything else I guess - it consumes more and more memory... ... One program I did like on "Win" was AAlog which did everything I wanted and had a very good "DX" Cluster feature, and it looked good on-screen, of course it required registration, whilst this would not have been a problem there were still a few parts of the program I was not sure about - then of course the inevitable happened, the trial time expired. Winlog was one I'd looked at before but again there were a few things that I just could'nt put my finger on, and was uncomfortable with it - this time I stuck with it - one major problem I had with this program (although it should'nt have been) was connecting to a DX Cluster -I think it uses the internal Wlnet program to connect direct, and try as I may it would just not work - I kept on going in to try and on every occasion I could not find a way of getting it to connect - eventually after much effort on my part it connected - I really do not know why I'd had so much difficulty with this, but ever since it has connected and is fine. Log entry is quick with the leisurely manual entry where you fill in all the fields or there's the speed mode where you fill everything except the Rst which is on Auto or there's a contest entry level which enters with one hit. For registered users there are also maps available which you can call on to check locations - I've a feeling this might become available to non registered users soon - and of course we have the "Post-Log" mode where you can make entries for a certain date and you can turn off the date mode IE: if you have several entries for one particular date you need not alter the date and the program will remember the date for the next entry. Winlog has the usual DXCC features and will track all stations worked on all bands/modes plus some interesting "Graph" modes giving details of bands most used and at what times, modes etc... I have now been using this program long enough to know that I WILL continue using it so will register it, AND it is still under development. CQRLOG has much the same features (Linux)... It looks different to Winlog - both have all the aforementioned facilities plus all the usual E-qsl/Lotw uploads plus other

Photos

I have been impressed with some of the lunar shots that have been posted by Adam M6RDP recently using his binox, and this has inspired me to start taking a few shots myself, and I have to say I am enjoying it very much - Friday was ideal as we had that beautiful full moon, but it was somewhat rushed as we had to visit my mother who is currently in hospital following a surgical procedure, so I quickly set up the tripod and began shooting - the result was pleasing in that I captured the surface detail although this pic does not reflect it's true colour. This photo was taken with my Sony cybershot 12Mp - x7 times zoom only. Whilst we're on it there's also a photo taken the other morning which captures the sunrise through our bedroom window (through an oak tree) which I think adds interest.
Picture taken with camera as is
This ones taken through the window

28 Jan 2010

Interesting "Olde" Qsl's

I have been busy doing some "Post - Log" entries of late as there is a huge gap in the logbook and I really do need  to get it updated (still loads to enter)... and while entering the data I came across some of the Qso's I'd had and could even remember sitting there making them.. that prompted me to dig out some of the past cards that I'd received - I found a couple of interesting cards - see below...  I shall be attempting to "Digitize" my card collection - there are "Hundreds" if not a thousand or more cards here and it is going to be something of a challenge to save them all - I deliberately kept them for this purpose beside which they are ALL unique and irreplaceable.
In future as I go along I may even feature a special section on past Qsl's with monthly updates.



6Y5HN Kingston Jamaica 7Mhz CW



K1EFI/VP9  Bermuda confirmed



Gibralter - not "DX" perhaps but they all count








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Blogging

Initially I set up a blog last year and did not use it much and I never really got that interested in it - but now I have this Amateur Radio blog running it has given me more scope because it involves something I'm really interested in - it's a change from viewing all the usual web sites and gives an insight into what people are actually doing, it's interesting also to note it's not always about "Ham Radio", so I'm finding it  a very useful  learning and reference media.
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21 Jan 2010

Back on Bpsk31

Well - I finally sat down today (Wednesday) and made an effort to get set back up and run some Psk - I think i was being "Idle" if the truth was known as for some reason I had it in the back of my mind that QRP PSK  was actually not very successful -  but I carefully went through the set-up procedure paying careful attention to ALC levels - quickly re-checked the power out  and found that my Macros had not been set up, forgetting that I was now using MixW - this is the Software that I had taken a look at two years ago and liked the look of it but never actually got it running. I still was'nt sure about it but spent the best part of an hour or so setting it up - it is different to HRD - just the one program but with plenty to learn - I was finding the latest versions of HRD too complex - too many windows and tabs to navigate besides which it was now dragging my old laptop down - I did however download FLDigi which I'd played with on my Linux box and will be giving that a run soon. Any how back to Psk  -  I double checked the macro's - tested them by performing a dry run on screen then found the tail end of a Qso and called in  -  !st call straight into OK2BQX 599  followed immediately with a call into OE6JFG 579 both ways - I was very pleased ! Time was pushing on so I closed for the day but I retired with that glow of satisfaction - It's starange but I had the feeling you get when you've made your first qso. With regards to MixW - Thumbs up ! So - for the next 10 days or so I'm going to be giving  this mode a good run and see how many qso's we make - Hope cond'x hold up !                                                                                       
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20 Jan 2010

Solar Flares

I guess it was only a matter of time before we saw some activity - x5 M class flares were detected on the 19 January, which will no doubt cause an Aurora in the Northern hemisphere and improve propagation at lower frequencies - whilst on others might possibly cause a radio blackout I am currently listening on 40M and although the noise level earlier was up - it's dropped again
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16 Jan 2010

Our Friendly Robin

I notice recently in G4ILO's blog he shows a visitor to his garden - looks remarkably like a Thrush
We also managed to capture some beauties of our Friendly Robin while erecting a garden shed around Xmas time - Here he is.
Not Radio related but he looks good

14 Jan 2010

Fitting a Collins CW Filter to FT817

One Collins YF-122C CW Filter - Fits Ft's 817/897/857
Here is my FT 817 ready to Fit the Filter
With the cover carefully removed - locate the mounting point at the front The Filter sits with the 3 lugs to the left/4 lugs to the right
Filter mounted onto main board ___________________________________________________
Now all that is required is to go into the main menu to #38 where it should say OP FILTER and just above it should read the word OFF, rotate the main dial to read CW. Press the Function button to exit the menu - then quickly press it again to go into the quick functions and rotate the knob until you reach IPO ATT NAR push the NAR button to engage it and it should now switch into cw narrowif it isn't already - if you want to switch between the two press NAR again - All straight forward, and I have to say what difference. I hope this sequence is of use to anyone contemplating this Filter.

Interesting Log Stats

Since changing over to an E-Log back in 1994 I still had quite a few entries missing from the log and I discovered to my amazement two holes between 1987-92  and another through 94, I'm not sure how this occurred as I always marked entries in "sections",  anyway I am now working through the rest of the log which I am finding slow and tedious - but after last nights session I checked the charts on band usage, and more interestingly "QSL return percentages". Having got your ticket you are keen to get on the air and start  working stations and I found I was sending out QSL's for virtually every contact, and after about a year or so they started trickling in - I was surprised at the overall qsl return rate : 1983     sent 200 with a 37% return 1984     sent 400 with a 50% return 1985     sent 200 with a 61% return 1986     sent 100 with a 79% return 1987     sent 600 with a 90% return More than 50% returns mostly via the qsl buro - it will be interesting to see in a few years time how many I have received via E-Qsl, I have only just started using it and have around 20 so far - the initial rush for a card has dwindled somewhat but I'm way off target with confirmed countries and of course you need a qsl. At the last count I had 56 (I think)... countries worked on 7Mhz - not all confirmed - all CW - loads to catch up on yet with another 20 odd pages to enter - I do not recommend post logging, do it from scratch.
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11 Jan 2010

Linux

What is Linux ? Well - It's a free Unix-type operating system originally created by Linus Torvalds with the assistance of developers around the world. Developed under the GNU General Public License , the source code for Linux is freely available to everyone. Some time ago I started playing with Linux and you could'nt even copy and paste with it but these days it's a whole new world and you can have a fully "working", AND stable environment in which to work, and you can run mainstream compatible software in the form of Browsers, Word, Excel, Presentation, Financial, etc... most of this will run right out of the box - including "Amateur Radio Softwares". without the need to "compile", which is something that scares most off - I have compiled stuff in the past but most of the "Packages" are Pre-compiled for most of the top Linux distro's, wich are Ubuntu, Suse 12, Fedora, Mandriva, Pc Os Linux, Debian, Mint. Ham software has until recently been a bit thin on the ground but now the boffins have been hard at work and there are prorams for just about everything now especially Loggers/psk31/mapping/aprs - a good place to look is the Debian website, look under the stable section under Amateur radio or ham --->  http://packages.debian.org/stable/hamradio/ I have been using Ubuntu (Gnome desktop) for three years and have found most of the software I need in their repositories - if not you normally find it on the Authors sites, or alternatively here : http://sourceforge.net/ Amateur Radio packeges I CAN recommend having used them: CQRLOG  -  FLDIGI  -  XLOG  -  xdx (Dx Cluster client)  -  QRQ (High speed CW trainer) Predict (Satellite tracking)  all these are ongoing projects and are constantly updated. I hope this might be of some use to those embarking on the Linux voyage ! Dont be afraid - it's free as well !
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10 Jan 2010

It's Flock-on-Ubuntu

I liked the look and feel of this updated Browser on my laptop so have installed the Tarball on my Ubuntu machine - it's very powerful with a lot of features - looks pretty impressive on a 24" widescreen - what I've also discovered today is that you can paste in links and picture content and post direct - also can "Tweet" as well -
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Hope-1 (XW-1, HO-68): A new satellite with Amateur Radio transponders

Hope-1 (XW-1, HO-68): A new satellite with Amateur Radio transponders
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9 Jan 2010

HRD

A great suite of programs IMHO, sadly has grown too big and cumbersome, and I find it too complicated from the earlier versions -  apart from being sluggish on my ageing laptop - sadly I found the need to simplify things somewhat and have gone over to Winlog32 (A very good logging program by G0CUZ) and for now anyway Digipan for psk although I keep looking at MixW - but not sure if I like it....!
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8 Jan 2010

The Qrp Thrill

Running 5 wtts to a no gain dipole? Work the world (Providing you have good conditions) - I used to think you HAD to run the obligatory 100 watts to work the world unti l got over the initial thrill of getting my ticket - I then started getting up on 10Mtrs  and quite often turned the wick down to 5-10wtts and still got decent reports from my 1/2 size RV and of course it helped with the neighbours. I found that I got more thrill from running low power - I do not quite know why - one afternoon I started a qso into East coast USA using 100w and ended up on 10w and the signals rounded out at 599 to 559 which for qrp is roughly what you would expect - my point is that my signal was still perfectly copyable using cw, admittedly - band conditions were very good. These days I use qrp ALL the time - I have an FT817 and it performs really well for such a small package and I usually run dipoles erected on a 30ft fishing pole - thats ALL you need. I now understand how qrp enthusiasts get their kicks. Need to know more on qrp and stealth operation ? then check out G4ILO's excellent site - I keep going back as there's so many interesting articles appearing  -  here:       http://www.g4ilo.com/qrp.html
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More Blog enhancements

Couple of years ago I tried one of the new fangled breed of browsers called "Flock", it is primarily aimed on the social network side but does have some nice looking touches- and overall it looks nice and clean - I've just started using it again as it has a nice inbuilt Blogger poster - I also use Firefox on my other machine which has an add-on called scribefire which is similar - I also have Opera but this does not have anything similar either built in or add-on. I had wanted something else to try and this new version seems to fit the bill and its handy as you can copy and paste bits of news from other pages and post directly. One thing that Opera does have is a Twitter widget which you fire up from within, and this gives a listing of current "Tweets", from your Twitter account - and of course you have the convenience of being able to post direct to it - I originally steered clear of twitter as I really saw no point in it - however since signing up again I have discovered more unusual and interesting blogs and web sites about my favourite Radio hobby - and its easy to keep up with new trends. Very Interesting - so I'm giving Flock a trial run.
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6 Jan 2010

New Year Activity

Ok we're into the New Year - hoping for some solar activity - it's not been good.
I have been monitoring since October 09 and the solar flux levels appear to have flattened out around the 69 mark with the odd peaks to around 83 - thankfully there do seem to be signs of a steady improvement so maybe we'll start getting some "action" higher up the bands - which brings me to 6M - I ask, does it EVER open? It's supposed to be the "Magic" band but since I've had it (2002) have only heard one opening and sadly had to attend a job interview ! I guess I need to be a bit more dedicated for this so I've built a Rotatable Dipole which will be up at 30 feet or so - I am expecting great things.
What else for the New Year ?  Oh yes whilst fitting out some new kitchen spots I decided to clear out the small loft area above only to find some old but useful radio gear still packed away - I'd forgotten about them  -  an almost brand new Power/Swr meter, a power supply, 200W dummy load, plus some useful lengths of coaxial fly-leads - nothing of any worth though !
Also been putting the key to use - after a long lay off, still a bit rusty but we're getting there - New rig on the cards as well, so will definitely be radio-active this year - and I've renewed Fists and Rsgb memberships - looking forward to a busy radio year.





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